"Blogswarm" topic: Is the separation of church and state patriotic?
An article on a blog named "Blog Against Theocracy" says,
We're going to be holding another blogswarm during the Fourth of July week, July 1-4.
A blogswarm is where a group of bloggers from all venues agree to post on the same topic. Our loosely framed topic for this swarm is "the separation of Church and State is patriotic." But this is about blogging, and we're not trying to herd anyone. Post on church/state separation, against theocracy, and you're participating.
I don't see the advantage of having a lot of blogs post on the same topic at the same time, but I nonetheless intend to participate. Instructions telling bloggers how to participate in the blogswarm are here.
"Blue Gal" emphatically claims that First Freedom First is not a sponsor of the blogswarm, but the sidebar of the FFF website includes the blogswarm's logo shown above. FFF includes many prominent organizations -- it is a partnership of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, and the list of supporters includes the American Jewish Committee and the American Humanist Association. The list of supporters also includes the infamous National Center for Science Education and the presumptuously named Scientists and Engineers for America, and unfortunately their support for FFF reflects their efforts to misuse the establishment clause to suppress criticism of Darwinism in the public schools. The name "First Freedom First" may be catchy but IMO it wrongly implies that the establishment clause and the free exercise clause are more equal than other Bill of Rights' protections just because these clauses appear first. In fact, IMO the establishment clause is one of the least important of the Bill of Rights' protections because it often just involves a "right" to not be offended, a right which is not even in the Constitution.
Anyway, I am going to jump the gun on the blogswarm by discussing the blogswarm topic right now. To address the question, "Is the separation of Church and State patriotic?", it is necessary to first answer the questions "What does the term 'separation of church and state' mean?" and what does "patriotic" mean? To some people, "separation of church and state" means an impenetrable "wall" of separation and to some other people the concept does not even exist in the Constitution. To me, the term has just been a catch-all term covering the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. In Lynch v. Donnelly (465 U.S. 668, 673), the Supreme Court said that the term is just a "metaphor" and that it has "'never been thought either possible or desirable to enforce a regime of total separation.' Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 760 (1973)". Also, Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lynch, which established the endorsement test, said that the government can run afoul of the establishment clause by showing disapproval of religion as well as by endorsing religion. I think that I will use the term "separation of church and state" less in the future because it has become vague in meaning and is being misused.
People on both sides of the church-state separation issue are trying to make themselves appear to be more patriotic than others by trying to identify their own religious views with those of the founding fathers. As a result, the founding fathers have been portrayed as virtually everything from a bunch of bible pounding, holy rolling fundies to a bunch of godless blasphemous atheists.
And what does "patriotic" mean? Does it mean supporting the nation or supporting the American ideals of freedom and democracy? In foreign countries, there is no correlation whatsoever between the degree of "separation of church and state" and the existence of freedom, democracy, tyranny, etc.. For example, countries or regimes with no "separation of church and state" range from the UK, which has a lot of freedom and democracy, down to the tyrannical Taliban.
I long thought the concept of "separation of church and state" to be innocuous at worst but I now see it as an instrument of tyranny that is being misused to attack scientific (or pseudoscientific) criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools. There is no constitutional separation of bad science and state, so Darwinists are attacking criticisms of Darwinism by exploiting the fortuitous historical fact that many of the criticisms of Darwinism have been religious in nature. The Darwinists ignore the fact that a lot of criticisms of Darwinism are not religious at all -- e.g., criticisms concerning co-evolution and the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction. The Darwinists argue that intelligent design is religious because it implies the existence of a supernatural designer. However, with non-ID criticisms of evolution, there is no supernatural designer. With no supernatural designer, there is no god. With no god, there is no religion. With no religion, there can be no real violation of the establishment clause.
Also, I am annoyed by what I consider to be some other recent misuses of the establishment clause -- e.g., the ACLU of Southern California's threat to sue Los Angeles County over a tiny cross in the county seal. That's really nitpicking.
Do I think that we would be better off without the establishment clause? No. But I think that we need to be more sensible in how we apply it.
Labels: Establishment clause